Eugene Carr interviews Jude Shimer, a musician and actor, about how they came to love tech and see it as an art form.
Eugene: Hi, everybody. I'm delighted to be here today. Talking with Jude Shimer, who's currently living in Brooklyn, New York and is the Salesforce administrator for New York city's division of energy management. You'll hear all about that and more from someone who's worked in the tech business for now 13 years.
Jude: Hello, glad to be here with you, Gene.
Eugene: So I wanna start not in tech, but I wanna start on your artistic journey. So you're, you are a musician originally and you're involved in the arts in many ways. Why don't you start that way and give us some background about, about that side of your life.
Jude: Sure. I considered, and I continued to consider myself an artist and a musician first, and it became clear when I was very little that I was a musician and I was gonna be a musician and I loved to sing and to draw. And we got my grandfather's piano and so I started playing piano and that became my primary instrument.
So I've been playing piano since I was very little and I still do. And I have, I recently bought my own actual piano upstairs. I'm having a great time with that now.
Eugene: Yeah. Am I right? That you also played cello for some period of time? Did I hear
Jude: Yes. I also do play the cello. I picked that up in high school and I didn't actually take dedicated cello lessons until the pandemic.
And I found a teacher who taught me over zoom and I had a really amazing time improving my cello skills, but I have definitely primarily a pianist.
Eugene: All right. As long as you said, you consider yourself an artist first tell I was gonna reserve this for part of the conversation later, but talk a little bit about the kind of artistic work that you're doing.
So I actually just went into the studio a couple of weeks ago. I did a full day in the studio laying down a bunch of piano tracks for songs that I've written since 2018 that I had meant to record earlier. But of course the piano disrupted that, but I write very frequently. My last album was in, came out in 20, in early 2018 "Little Creep."
So I'm working on my my next one right now. And I also love to draw. I recently animated part of a music video for my friend, Michael one of the people in my music network. And that was super fun. I've been animating a little bit here and there for many years and ramping a little bit of that up again, after a bit of a an animation and visual art hiatus.
Eugene: Excellent. Now that we've got that background, you also are a technology professional, so how did you manage to find yourself in that world? How did that come about?
Jude: Sort of by accident. And I'm so glad that it did, because I realized that technology is yet another passion of mine.
It didn't emerge right away, but I had some friends in high school who were into computers. I had a friend in particular who was really into Linux and because I couldn't get a Mac cuz they were very expensive. I turned my, my cheap PC laptop into a Linux and a Buntu Linux laptop, and tricked it out to make it kinda look like a Mac
And I had a great time with that and that. Led me to fall into an IT work study job in college. And then from there, it just escalated when I was looking for jobs, the ones that seemed to make the most sense were the ones that were technology oriented, and yeah, I fell into it and I'm so glad that I did because I love it and enjoyed it.
Eugene: Now just to clear, so I've listened to your background, but you wouldn't, would you consider yourself an expert in math or someone that has a computer degree or any of those? How does that no,
Jude: not I took Remedi what is it? Remediary math, the math for the kids who did not make it very far in math, in high school.
And I, I was a little bit better in science. And I think that I wasn't encouraged to be tech oriented. There weren't really people in my life, my mom was like, anything you wanna do, you can do it. But yeah, there, there weren't a lot of people who were really more specifically than that being like, you might not think that you could be good at technology, but you could be.
And it turns out that it just. Having an actual interest in something like I wasn't particularly good at math in high school because I didn't understand how it applied and I didn't come into it through an existing interest. And I found it really awesome to get into technology, to get into programming.
Once I could see what it did and it felt more artistic. And now I genuinely see technology as an art form and. For certain, a method of creative expression. I went to school, I went to grad school and took digital arts classes. There was a digital major that I didn't do. I did new forms, which is a little bit more on the.
Slightly less digital side, but yeah, like learning about how technology is also art and these things all flow into each other made me understand that it's not really about what you're inherently good at, but it's about what interests you and how much you, how much opportunity and incentive you have to fire yourself to it.
Eugene: Fantastic answer. I wanna explore a little bit further. Moving from I'm interested in this and it might be interesting into actually learning about technology. And I guess you at a certain point we met each other because you came to work at Patron Manager. I want you to explain a little bit about the early learning process.
How did you find that? Was it, how did that relate to other things that you had learned in life?
Jude: Early learning process was really cool. I think, and I've mentioned this to you, but I don't, maybe not for the folks who might be watching this, but yeah, I found that learning technology was very similar and reminded me a lot of learning really hard pieces when I was growing up and I was taking piano lessons.
I would reach this point of, I would be supposed to learn a piece and it would feel beyond my skills and abilities, and it might even feel a little bit annoying of "I have to do this thing. This is gonna be really hard. I don't know if I'm gonna be good at it." But my piano teacher, Paula Rosinski from Columbus, Ohio was really good at it at encouraging grit.
And help me to understand that if you are interested in something and you wanna do it. The formula is work on it and slowly steadily, deliberately, hone in on the areas that you're not quite good at yet. And if you know it, it's not actually complicated.. And that as long as the interest is there.
And as long as there's a certain level of discipline and belief and understanding of, "if I just apply myself to a certain extent, I will get better at it. I will be able to do it." It's not magical. It doesn't require a tremendous amount of talent or preexisting skill. It's just applying it and exactly the same thing works in technology. That I can go into something feeling like this is completely mystical. I have no idea how this works. And as long as I just take it step by step and use available resources, consult somebody who's an expert, that I will get it. I'll get it. And I'll be able to do it.
Eugene: That is a beautiful answer. And it's really exactly what I was hoping for. So now that you're, you've been in the field and doing a job, I wonder if you could explain to folks who are listening. What the role is of a database administrator in your case, a Salesforce administrator, what do you do?
All day, you're not writing code per se, but you're helping people. And so I wonder if you could explain the job as you've had it, both in this current instance and some of your previous jobs
Jude: It's a little bit. I actually recently started in early June at at New York City's division of energy management.
And and so it's changed a little bit prior to this. I was working for a couple of years in the nonprofit industry, in the progressive movement world. And before that, of course, for seven years, I was at Patron Manager and then some other stuff before that but in every case I would say that. Primary.
The first thing absolutely is understanding users and forming relationships with users. And that from there, it's a process of translating their needs into technological solutions. And so at any given position that I've had, it's been sort of a. Somewhere in there's maybe more of dealing directly with the users or maybe a little bit less of that and a little bit more of actually building the solutions or collaborating with the engineers who are building the solutions, but at every level that's the basic element.
And that's actually the part that I love the most about it is being a voice for users and being somebody who can make users feel like their needs are gonna get met and to value and to respect them like, this is about you. This is for you. This is not some technologists who are just gonna tell you what to do, or this is the thing but really staying user centric.
So right now at this moment, I've just started. I've just started at DEM and I'm meeting all of these incredible teams who are doing energy management for the city. So who are working on solar installations, who are making sure that agencies receive grants to do things like replace their lighting or replace their boilers all with the explicit objective of reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
So I'm working with these incredible energy professionals. Who knows so much about energy management and I'm just starting to learn the very basics. But they're not Salesforce experts. And so the process of combining our knowledge and putting it together to make sure that Salesforce is serving the division is fascinating.
A lot of conversations, a lot of shadowing, a lot of. Looking at each other's screens and I'm working in a physical office now. So sitting at each other, sitting at our, at desks together and going through the process and figuring out how does this map to this and that map to that.
And then from there developing solutions is really cool.
Eugene: So what skills do you think are really the most valuable skills aside from the technical you're gonna, you're gonna learn how the Salesforce system works and you're gonna learn how to do things in the system, but separate, and apart from that, what are the personal qualities that you find that you find most helpful to get your job done?
Jude: Empathy and mutual respect are super important. There I have encountered, although Patient Manager was one of the first environments where I was like, this is really healthy , but I've certainly in other places encountered an attitude of. Tech people know the answers, tech people are the ones who are right about stuff.
And we just have to, we just have to get the users in line and that's an incredibly unhelpful approach and it doesn't make for good product development and it certainly doesn't make for good, customer service. And so the ability to empathize with people and to understand that if they're having an experience, if they're having a negative experience, there's always a reason why.
And the solution is never to just ignore them and tell them that they just have to keep doing it the way that we're telling them to do it. There always is some other explanation. That might just be a little bit more training. It might just be a little bit more help documentation that they can reference.
It might be that there is genuinely an issue with the product that needs to be addressed, and it could be a little tiny issue, or it could be a really big issue, but we can't actually create good platforms and good products without being really in touch and in tune with users and respecting them as the people who this is for.
Eugene: That's excellent
I think as I was listening to you, I was thinking that you are in a certain way. The job that you're doing is in a way you're a translator. You're listening to what people have to say. You're translating in your mind, "Okay. What do they need and how can I deliver it?" And then on some level, you're gonna go and tweak the knobs and turn the knobs over and make things happen.
Such that they actually get the thing that they need to do their job. And as I've been, as we've been explaining to people that aren't as familiar with the Salesforce platform, how people use databases and what does an admin actually do. And I think you've given a really excellent example of not only what the job is, but why you like it.
Like it you're in the, it seems like you're in the business of making people happy.
Jude: And I love it. I genuinely love it. I love to tell people that I have the best job. .
Eugene: That's excellent. So let me ask you that this what would you say to people who, have been in the practice room for seven or eight years, and maybe they've just finished a graduate program and could be in dance or it could be in music, could be in theater and they're thinking about their career and they've never really thought about this, but they've heard other people are doing it. They'd watch this interview what advice would you give people? As they contemplate whether to dive into this world that is so different than the world that they've been in in in, in practice rooms, let's say.
Jude: That there are a lot of possibilities.
I think that one of the reasons why folks can get a little bit anxious about thinking about moving into a new a new field or. Or trying something that they haven't been told that they're good at is that there's a very specific way that it has to be done and that, and they have an image in their mind about what it is going to be like, you work in tech, you're writing code.
I don't know how to write. I personally have learned to write code, which is really cool, but I, imagining my practice room self, I don't know how to write code. Is that what it means to work in tech? What am I supposed to do if I don't know how to do that? But understanding that there's such an incredible broad spectrum of opportunity and possibility and niches in tech and it's huge.
And even within Salesforce, one of the things that I like to tell people as well, who are starting to get into Salesforce, and I was having an amazing conversation with one of my new coworkers on Friday about this is Salesforce has Trailhead and yes one of the things that's so cool about it is you can see how many trails or how many kind of specializations you can go off into.
And so there are more code, heavy specializations. There are totally code free specializations. You can get into Salesforce in a way where you're gonna be, being cozy at your computer. Not really talking to many people and being able to do cool stuff.
There are gonna be ways where you can be primarily interfacing with other people and that all of these are possibilities. And if you consider that all of these are possibilities just within specializing in Salesforce, then it's even greater and more expansive in the larger tech world.
Eugene: Now that's excellent. So I'm gonna give you a leading question here is, would you recommend this path to others? So what advice would you give to people as they as they are considering their career path? And specifically what I mean is you described at the very beginning of this interview that you're leading, what I like to call a hybrid life.
You're immersed in two worlds simultaneously. One of which is paying the bills and the other one is giving you joy and maybe paying the bills. But I wonder if you could expand a little bit on that.
Jude: Sure. I, there have been times in the last few years where it's felt like a little bit harder or a little bit easier to balance those things.
I have mostly been in a state where it feels very easy and comfortable. It, it depends on lots and lots of factors, but I also know so many people, I went to art school twice. And most of the people who I met and I got friendly with, from art school are simultaneously continuing to be artists and also have some other type of career because that's what ends up being the most feasible in a lot of cases.
And I'm so pleased to report that overwhelmingly for these people in my network. These things compliment each other and it's great to see it happen and see it work and to also feel and experience it happening and working. But, I recently joined a new ensemble. I've been in a few ensembles over the past few years.
Obviously COVID disrupted some of that, but I've been playing with new ensemble and and we had a show recently. And seeing that this is a group of people where we have largely also discovered that we have other really awesome fun skills and interests, and that it's actually restrictive to just be like "I'm just a musician" or "I'm just an artist."
And so I'm not just doing tech because it pays the bills. I discovered that this is really cool and interesting, and that I genuinely love it. And. Nobody told like it happened by accident. Nobody told, I wish that somebody earlier had taken me aside and been like, you know what? You might actually really enjoy tech
It might have taken me. It might have been a, an easier and easier transition into that. But just no that there's a lot of possibility. And that there are a lot of people out who are really enjoying this sort of hybrid life.
Eugene: That is a absolutely wonderful end to a really terrific conversation.
I'm gonna on the, when we post this, I'm also gonna put some links so that folks can see your art and be connected to you on the artistic level. And I'll say thank you for taking the time to really share your passion. For both the art arts and and for tech. And I hope that this is really helpful for people that have been listening in.
And I wanna say thank you so much for being our guest today.
Jude: Thank you so much. This has been really fun.